Thursday, January 10, 2013

First time on a mountain bike

There are some who might consider that it is a tad late for someone in his 40s to take mountain biking. Aside from being a very physically taxing activity, mountain biking also poses danger to riders from spill overs, getting blind-sided, or tumbling over unfamiliar terrain.

For me, however, the benefits definitely outweigh the risks.

So there I was one fine day in October joining a few friends and cousins on my very first mountain bike ride. I was on a borrowed bike and adjustments had to be made. I made sure I had a helmet, comfortable clothes, a water bottle full of water, and of course my shades to protect my eyes.

We set our course in a nice but still challenging route in my hometown of Sta. Rosa, Nueva Ecija, going to the neighboring towns of Palayan City. Our destination will be Tanawan, a nice, uphill spot where locals often go to enjoy a panoramic view of surrounding towns and the lush green carpet of ricefields.

We rolled out early and since most of us are newbies, we rode at a leisurely pace. The cool, early morning breeze made for a very relaxing ride as we passed by quaint houses, farms, orchards, and endless ricefields spanning through the horizon.

We passed by the military reserve of Fort Magsaysay and marveled at surrounding hills and valleys. The roads are almost empty save for the occasional vehicle or tricycle. Good thing we rode off early.

As a first-timer, I enjoyed the ride immensely, and often, I find myself lagging behind the group because I was really taking my time to enjoy the sights and sounds.

The ride was enjoyable that I almost did not notice that we have already logged in a significant number of kilometers (for newbies) and that we are almost at our destination.

We had our first pit stop at a nice sari-sari store by the road. We stayed longer that we should have because my uncle knows the owner of the store and the customary ‘kumustahan’ had to be made between friends.

Although we we’re not able to ride the last kilometer or two going to Tanawan (the road was just too steep for us), it was a very satisfying ride that is worth repeating.

We stayed for almost an hour taking pictures, eating our snacks and just enjoying the view at Tanawan while our bikes are “parked” near a nipa hut atop a gently sloping cliff.

The ride back was even faster, because there were downhills that allowed us to go a bit faster. The end of the day was indeed satisfying and all of us are looking forward to another ride.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A stopover in Dagupan

Dagupan City is a highly-urbanized metropolis that will always be part of a traveler’s itinerary whenever one needs to explore Northern Luzon.

What is good about Dagupan is its proximity to other places in the province of Pangasinan and its short distance to the Lingayen Gulf. This means one can enjoy all the luxuries of city living while being close to the sea.

We timed our trip to Dagupan to visit the Bangus Festival, a fairly new but very popular festival drawing thousands. The festivities center around the bangus or milkfish, perhaps the most popular export that Pangasinan is known for.

The usual street parties were noteworthy and witnessing the longest grill in the world and partaking of fresh grilled oysters from generous locals was quite an experience.

For the jaded traveler, Dagupan City may no longer be that appealing and that there are more exotic places in Pangasinan that are worth the trip.

However, Dagupan City continues to be a nice stopover for those trekking up north.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A journey to Caramoan

A journey to Caramoan
We prepped up the 7-seater vehicle, packed our gears, and drove off one early morning. We have a long drive ahead of us, going south. Far south.

It was almost dusk when we arrive to the first leg of the trip. We had dinner in Naga City, then re-traced our tracks to quaint Ragay in Camarines Norte. We still have a long way to in this journey to Bicolandia and our ultimate destination will be Caramoan.

Caramoan is a small coastal town surrounded by numerous small islands. The town can be reached via ferry. The islands have become very popular because of the reality show “Survivor.” During our trip, there were no less than four “Survivor” editions being shot or have been completed in the isolated islands surrounding Caramoan.

The interesting part of our journey is that we almost did not make it to Caramoan. The ominous looking grey clouds as we drove along the length of Camarines Sur going to the port were not a good sign. And true enough, a storm raged on preventing ferry boats going to Caramoan to set sail.

And there we were stuck in a modest hotel hoping and waiting to the clouds to clear up. It was a good two days of waiting before we finally saw the sun peek out of the clouds.

Leaving our vehicle in the port, we rushed to the ferry boat station eager and excited. After an uneventful 2-hour boat ride, we sat foot for the first time in Caramoan town. After securing our accommodation for the night and getting in touch with our local contact, we hurriedly went to this small dock where the “Bangka” to take us to the many islands surrounding the town.

It was nice seeing a cluster mangroves with many sea birds perched among the branches. It was nice seeing emerald waters reflect sunlight. It was wonderful seeing an unspoiled cove, with crystal clear water, and jumping in the water from a seemingly out of place 10-foot boulder gutting out of the beach. It was nice walking barefoot in white sand that is comparable to the world-famous white sand of Boracay.

In essence, it was nice getting away from it all even for a few minutes. We were in paradise.